Category Archives: Nature

Divine Supply

thumbnail_image1(1)The cherry trees behind our house are bursting with fruit. More cherries than we can pick, eat, turn into jam, give away, or freeze. We still have jars from last year – plump cherries bloated by the pure alcohol bath they sit in, waiting to be plucked from the jar, soaked for a few hours in local spring water and eaten. Each fruit tree in the back bares a different type of cherry – white and sour, round and sweet, watery with too much pit.  We are doing our best to collect what we can, but many will inevitably feed the birds, ants and insects, or drop to the ground and nourish the grassy knoll which they now adorn.

During my last visit to Casa Assagioli, lockdown was a distant tsunami of fear yet to overwhelm us. Cocooned, I spent hours going through a file labelled “What is Synthesis?” My task was to read and summarize each document in this file, note the sources Assagioli quoted, and enter this data into the online archives. February is a quiet time in Florence, and I punctuated my time in the archives with walks to the local pasticceria to indulge in frappe (strips of fried dough popular during carnivale), window shopping and strong cups of cafè. Meals of baked pasta and tiramisu were shared with others from Gruppo alle Fonti, along with silly jokes and all kinds of advice. (Did you know that walking backwards helps your digestion?)

But I digress… What amazed me that weekend while studying the many notes and typed manuscripts in this file “What is Synthesis?” was how Assagioli was continually developing his ideas and looking for new ways to express them. His article “What is Synthesis?” is a rough translation of a 1933 lecture that he gave in Rome and appears in Per l’armonia della vita published in 1966. But many concepts that do not appear in this fundamental essay can be found in his archives. For example, Assagioli notes the stages of synthesis as: interrelation, interplay, regulation, attraction-love, cooperation/ordered activity, and subordination/organization/hierarchy. He also explores three clearly differentiated kinds of synthesis: ‘combining’ synthesis, ‘balancing’ or ‘regulatory’ synthesis, and ‘organising’ synthesis.

025262 Divine supply 3But what profoundly struck me was one diagram tucked away at the bottom of the pile of papers. Assagioli often illustrated the process of synthesis with triangular diagrams. Opposites appear at each endpoint of the triangular base, and in the center is their combined point of neutralization. In this middle point, neither polar opposite is dominant. But at the top of the triangle, right above the middle point, is the synthesis of the polarity. Synthesis occurs through the transformation, sublimation and re-absorption of the two polarities into a higher reality.

Despite having seen many of these diagrams before, this particular one was new to me, and it seemed to carry great meaning for our times. The polarity being balanced and synthesized is ‘Poverty’ and ‘Material Wealth/Luxury.’ Its neutral state is ‘Sufficiency.’ But what moved me that day when I first saw Assagioli’s diagram was ‘Divine Supply’ staring (nearly screaming!) at me from the top of the triangle.

Let’s take a closer look…

cherries hangingAs demonstrated by the multitude of cherries tangling from the trees in my backyard, Nature is abundant. Add to this abundance, our technological ability to collaborate with Nature and distribute her fruits, and – provided we limit ourselves to what we need (not what we think we need) – there is certainly enough for all. Poverty, as Assagioli notes, is the fault of humankind. Excessive poverty, he continues, is a direct consequence of our will being directed towards the ill use, waste, and abuse of what we have and our sole desire for (more) material riches.

Collectively, we need to circulate and distribute the wealth and goods in a more equitable way. Individually, we need to take responsibility for our own use of material goods by first disidentifying from our fear of poverty – and secondly by appreciating all the natural abundance around us and the goodness it can provide. In other words, to see and receive the Divine Supply that surrounds us.

As Gandhi famously said:

“The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.”

And Rabindranath Tagore poetically explained:

“We do not have to run to the grocer’s shop for our morning light; we open our eyes and there it is; so we need only give ourselves up to find that Brahma is everywhere.”

And

“Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.”

HarvestThe key is to recognize our true needs and what truly belongs to us, and then to gratefully receive it. Perhaps during this time of COVID-19, we’ve had chance to experience ‘Sufficiency,’ and we might want to try practicing it more, in simple ways… By gratefully growing our own food or supporting local farmers, preparing our own meals, learning to stimulate and entertain ourselves and others by means of our creative lives.

And then, with pure consciousness and the will of the Higher Self, we will have a chance to synthesize our attempt at a balanced and harmonious life of ‘just enough’ into an experience of Divine Supply. We will meet ourselves and our God in the flood of morning light, the whirlwind of birdsong, and (with a bit of luck) cherries ready to be picked from a nearby tree.

A Week under Lockdown

Lockdown in Pieve 2In Umbria, it all happened gradually. Like contracting the virus itself, I suppose. One person wearing a mask at the supermarket and everyone trying to act normal about it. The fervent washing of hands upon entering home. The silly jokes. Do you know the latest Italian slogan? Meno tasse, meno tosse (‘Less taxes, less coughing.’ But in Italian it’s funnier because it rhymes.) The collective denial when everyone shook hands as they offered the Sign of Peace during Sunday Mass.

Then things started to heat up. Like the feverish heat of the virus, I suppose. We were only allowed to go out to work, for food shopping and emergencies. Signs warned us at the supermarket to stand at least a meter apart while waiting on line. But I wondered about buying fruit and vegetables that anyone could handle and easily sneeze on. All the flour was missing from the shelves and the mozzarella nearly gone. Schools were all closed, but bars were open and restaurants too. People were still making plans to meet for dinner. Continue reading

Rocky’s Prayer

Day of the DeadThis weekend, many Italians are traveling to village cemeteries to pay homage to their ancestors. The Catholic feast of All Saints Day on November 1st is a national holiday followed by All Soul’s Day. It is a time for the living to ritually remember the dead – both saint and sinner alike. In preparation, the (mostly older) women are scrubbing tombstones clean and buying votive candles and pots of chrysanthemums to decorate the graves of loved ones. Coinciding with the beginning of darker days and longer nights, this time allows us to pause and consider our own life and death.

fave-in-fiore

Fava bean flowers

The two days devoted to honoring the dead correspond agriculturally to when Umbrian farmers seed their fields. They are also busy burying onion bulbs and garlic cloves with the hope of enjoying sweet shoots in the spring. There is a local saying among our neighbors that All Saint’s Day marks the planting of fava beans. In fact, eating fava beans was once thought to be a way to be in communion with the dead. The bean flower is white with black markings that take the form of the Greek letter thet or θ, which is the first letter of thanatos, meaning ‘death’. Continue reading

A Time for ‘Self-Stripping’

DSC01928 Burn

In the Umbrian countryside, it is time to burn old growth.

We are now halfway through the period of Lent – a time before Easter when Christians seek purification through fasting, prayer, and charitable acts. The forty days of Lent are, in many ways, similar to the Islamic time of Ramadan, which I was fortunate enough to experience while living in Egypt. During Ramadan, Moslems are expected to fast as well as give alms and read the Qur’an.

Assagioli wrote extensively on what he called “the science of applied purification”, insisting that this work must be undertaken in order to transform the lower characteristics of our personality and bring unity to our soul. He described purification of the personality as a process of re-orientation and elevation of the higher mind. Using our will, we burn the dross of our affective and instinctual energies, habits, tendencies and passions. Once clear of the obstacles that prevent us from receiving our higher intuitions, we are free to receive wisdom from the Higher Self. In other words, purification is a necessary process that we all must endure along the journey towards personal psychosynthesis before we are adequately equipped to seek spiritual psychosynthesis. Continue reading

San-Ni-Ichi

Peak Experience3 ClombardTranspersonal experiences have blessed my life for many years. Perhaps one of the earliest and strongest occurred in 1987 while I was living in Japan. After graduating from UC Berkeley, I moved to Fukuyama, about 400 miles south of Tokyo to teach English.

Before I left, my brother gave me the name and address of Takashi (not his real name), a friend of his from business school who lived in Tokyo. Soon after settling in, I contacted Takashi and introduced myself. He replied with the suggestion that I meet him in Kyoto where he was planning a business trip. During the weekend, he would have time to accompany me through the ancient capital city.

I happily agreed to this idea. Kyoto is renown for its numerous temples and shrines. Surrounded by mountains and graced with bamboo gardens and philosopher paths, Kyoto seems to hold the essence of Japan. With a guiding hand, I hoped to touch this essence. Continue reading

From Sexual Instinct to Channeled Love

Fear Less Love More

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini. See more at drawntocolor.com

Let’s talk about sex. The sexual instinct that is… Lately, the media has been giving it a bad rap. Every day there is another report of a woman being assaulted by a Hollywood mongrel, fellow actor, news anchorman, US president, or fashion photographer. This is not new news. Nearly every woman has encountered this type of aggressive behavior (in various degrees) during her lifetime. I still do, even at the age of 62!

Come on guys, grow up! Sublimate and transmute already!

Let’s talk about sexual energy from a psychosynthesis point of view. Assagioli did more than 100 years ago in his article “The Transformation and Sublimation of Sexual Energy.” First, I want to say that this is mainly a male problem. For some mysterious reason, men have more difficulty holding sexual tension. This is a general fact. There are, of course, exceptions… Continue reading

Threshing our Lives Anew

But I shall sing of your strength; and in the morning I shall sing of your love. For you are my defender; and my refuge, in the days of my tribulations. (Psalm 59:16)

Since moving to Italy a year ago, I often hear the word ‘tribolazione’. While rarely used in English, this word ‘tribulation’ often poetically enters Italian conversation when my neighbors are talking about a very long, difficult, and grievous period in their or someone else’s life.

thresh and ox

Farmers in some parts of the world still use a tribulum to thresh their harvest.

Hearing this word more often, I started to wonder about its origins. I soon discovered that it derives from the Latin word tribulum. A tribulum is a threshing roller or sledge pulled by oxen that farmers have used for centuries to separate the corn from the husks, the wheat from the chaff.

How often I have felt trampled by oxen as they yanked sharp flints of cut stone over me. (Well, okay. I am dramatizing, but you know this feeling don’t you?) Something inside me is being purged and discarded allowing my truer self to be freed from its hidden form. Without the tribulum, the seed of new life cannot be beaten away from the wheat, the flail, or the corn. The new seed can only lay dormant and lost. Continue reading

Beauty – Where Spirit and Matter Converge

John
As an expression of beauty, awe, and awakening, art has always played a great part along our journey to our Higher Self. Throughout the world, holy places have been built to hold the polar tensions of spirit and matter, inner and outer space and light, as well as the community that shares the transcendent experience within the architectural space.

Assagioli noted that:

“Matter is the highest form of Spirit and Spirit is the lowest form of Matter.”

In this way, spirit seeks matter to express the full beauty of the transcendent. Assagioli also noted that Plato, Plotinus, and Christian mystics have recognized and proclaimed that “beauty is the essential attribute of the Supreme.”

Continue reading